03/19/2003 12:00AM

Strong field likely for WinStar


SUNLAND PARK, N.M. - A solid field is shaping up for the richest race in Sunland Park history, the $500,000 WinStar Derby March 30. Formerly known as the Riley Allison Derby, the race is being sponsored by WinStar Farm this year. WinStar partner Bill Casner worked as an exercise rider at Sunland while attending the University of Texas, El Paso.

Among the horses expected for the 1 1/16-mile race are Sum Trick, who won the Riley Allison Futurity here Dec. 29 in just his second career start. He is eligible for a $250,000 bonus if he can win the WinStar Derby and then the Lone Star Derby May 10. Since winning the Allison, Sum Trick finished second to Kafwain in the Grade 2 San Vicente at Santa Anita and fifth in the San Rafael, his first try at a mile.

The top two finishers in the Borderland Derby, the local WinStar prep which was run here March 1, are also on schedule for the race. Mr. Decatur, who is trained by Steve Asmussen, won that race after a stretch duel with Excessivepleasure.

Excessivepleasure, winner of the California Breeders' Championship Dec. 26 at Santa Anita and second to Valid Video in the Sunshine Millions Dash at Gulfstream Park, tried two turns for the first time in the Borderland. Trainer Doug O'Neill is satisfied that the race gave Excessivepleasure the seasoning he needs for the WinStar. Excessivepleasure acted up in the paddock before the Borderland and O'Neill plans to bring him in early and school him in the paddock to have him mentally prepared for the WinStar.

Overflight dominated in his only two starts, both at Sunland. He broke poorly in both races, and quickly overpowered his opponents to win easily in fast times without ever having been asked for his best run. Inexperienced, Overflight will be depending on raw ability in the WinStar.

Robledo, winner of the Turf Paradise Derby Feb. 1, is definite for the race, according to trainer Vladimir Cerin. Bob Baffert plans to send in Spensive, second in the San Rafael, and is also considering Apalachian Thunder. Neil French will send either Slew City Citadel or Seattle Spectacular. Clover Situation, Winning Fans, Cat Genius, and Catalissa are others who are likely to be entered.

* Nominations for the $250,000 WinStar Sunland Park Oaks, which will be run at one mile the day before the WinStar Derby, close Saturday.